Posts Tagged ‘Terry Gilliam’

Paul Klee- Fish Magic 1925

He has found his style, when he cannot do otherwise.

-Paul Klee

Paul Klee always seems to have something in his works and his words to which I can relate. I know these words relate to my own experience as an artist.

I do what I do. I am what I am.

I just can’t do anything else.

It can be frustrating at those times when I feel blocked and find myself wishing I was someone else with different and greater talents and skills. Or when people ask me why I don’t paint in a different way or ask me to do something outside of my artistic realm or area of interest.

So I do what I do and I live with that.

There was a scene from a PBS series years ago that I have mentioned here before  (and borrow from in what follows) that perfectly encapsulates this situation.

It was an episode of Mystery! on PBS starring Kenneth Branagh as the Swedish detective Wallander. It was an okay, nice production but nothing remarkable in the story. But there was a part at the end that struck home with me and related very much to my life as a painter. Wallander’s father, played by the great character actor David Warner ( I always remember him best for his portrayal as Evil in the Terry Gilliam film Time Bandits, was, like me, a landscape painter. Now aged and in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s, his son comes to him and intimates to his father, after having recently killed a serial killer, that he can’t go on as a detective, that he can’t take the stress.

The painter tries to comfort his son then recalls how when Wallander was a boy he would ask his father about his painting, asking, “Why are they always the same, Dad? Why don’t you do something different?

He said he could never explain. Each morning when he began to paint, he would tell himself that maybe today he would do a seascape or a still life or maybe an abstract, just splash on the paint and see where it takes him. But then he would start and each day he would paint the same thing- a landscape. Whatever he did, that was what came out. He then said to his son, ” What you have is your painting- I may not like it, you may not like it but it’s yours.

That may not translate as well on paper without the atmospheric camera shots and the underscored music but for me it said a lot in how I think about my body of work. Like the father, I used to worry that I would have to do other things- still lifes, portraits, etc.- to prove my worth as a painter but at the end of each day I found myself looking at a landscape, most often with a red tree.

As time has passed, I have shed away those worries. I don’t paint portraits. Don’t really paint still life. I paint what comes out and most often it is the landscape. And it usually includes that red tree that I once damned when I first realized it had became a part of who I am.

I realized you have to stop damning who you are…


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Richard lindner Double PortraitI’ve been going through some books on my shelves that I haven’t looked at for some time and came across a smallish book on the work of Richard Lindner, who was  a German born  (1901)  painter who moved to New York during World War II.  He taught at the Pratt Institute then later at Yale before his death in 1978.

His work was obviously a big influence on the Pop Art movement of the 60’s.  If you remember the artwork for the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine film,  you can easily see how Lindner’s work Richard Lindner The Coupleguided the hand of the film’s  artist who most people think was Peter Max.  However, the artist was Heinz Edelman .  This misconception probably shows Lindner’s influence on Max as well.   I also can see Lindner in some of Terry Gilliam‘s animations for Monty Python.  The Beatles  paid tribute to Lindner  by inserting his image  in the group of figures on the cover of their classic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.  He’s  between Laurel and Hardy in the second row.

I am really attracted to Lindner’s colors and use of forms.  His colors have gradations and complexities that give his work added dimension.  His shapes and lines are strong and sure.  It’ demands an immediate response, even if it’s negative, and I really respect that.

Richard Lindner  FBI On East 69th StreetOne of my favorites is shown to the left here,  FBI On East 69th Street.  I have no idea whether he was influenced by Lindner’s work (although I wouldn’t be surprised), but when I look at this painting I can only think of  David Bowie, especially in the early 70’s in the Glam era.  Again, the strength of the color and shape,s as well as how his figures fill the picture frame, excite me.  How I might take this excitement and make it work within my own work is something that remains to be seen.  It may not be discernible but seeing work that makes your own internal wheels spin will show up in some manner.  We’ll have to see if this comes through in the near future.

Richard Lindner The Meeting

Richard Lindner Rock-RockRichard Lindner Telephone

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Images from Terry Gilliam's "Brazil"

It’s about 6:30 in the morning and I’m sitting here, stumped and looking at a blank screen.  Nothing to say so I flip on the television.  Don’t really want to watch the news.  Not ready for that just yet.

So I flip around the dial and up comes the opening from the movie Brazil with the music from the old song of the same name blaring, but in a gentle way.  It’s a sort of  1984 storyline that is set in a futuristic nightmare world that vaguely  resembles 1950’s England, only with some slight twists and bends.   I know I can’t watch it and get anything done but keep it on because I know that at any moment I can look up at it and see incredibly interesting imagery.

It’s a Terry Gilliam film after all.

Terry Gilliam was the American member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the least visible member but the one responsible for much of their visual look including their trademark opening credits and most of their animations.  In his post-Python life he has become one of the most original film-makers in the world, creating films that are wildly original and always richly visual.  Films like Time Bandits, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Jabberwocky, Twelve Monkeys, The Fisher King and  most recently, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.  All films that march to their own drum and have had degrees of success but hardly movies that have had widespread appeal for the general movie-going public.

I can imagine when film critics in the future, if there are such things then, will look back on Gilliam’s body of work and will recognize him for the creative genius he is for creating richly detailed alternate visions of this world in his films,  with stories that are consistently strong and beautifully conceived, that often deal with the individual trying to make his way through a world in which he is usually out of place in some way.  A theme I think we can all identify with in our own way.   I think that is how his work will be remembered, as highly individualistic visual feasts. 

Each film is definitely recognizable as his work.

So, as I struggle tofinish this post and get back to my own work, Brazil still rolls across the TV screen in my studio and I know I won’t get much done until it’s over.  Thanks, Terry…

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